Peter, my Research Partner in Crime, and I thought we had interviewed our very last veteran.
But, hey, here we are
at Worthing Library, preparing to interview a 92 year old veteran of the Second World War for the Military Voices Project. Martin, who is in charge, copied us in to the email he sent our victim, sorry, subject, introducing us as “two of our most experienced
researchers.” We silently preened ourselves. Or, at least, I preened myself, I can't speak for Peter but I expect he, too, was Quietly Proud.
a little trouble identifying a date all three of us can make and then, having settled upon a particular day, discover that the room at the library which is to be used for our interview has been booked out to someone else. Back to the drawing board - but it's
all very civilised, no blame attached to whoever upset our carefully laid plans.
Peter and I are always extremely courteous towards each other. So we skirt around
the issue of who should ask the questions and who should operate the equipment, for simply ages: our email trail contains lots of phrases like “of course it's up to you”, “so long as you are happy with that”, “only if you don't
mind” and “so long as you are sure.” It's a very long email trail - but an exceedingly polite one. In the end it is agreed that I should interview but Peter will chip in as and when he feels inclined. I am more than a little relieved because
it is a while since I last found myself in charge of the recorder and I may have forgotten a few important Set Up Related issues.
Change of plan! The interview
room is free, there is even a printed notice fixed to the door alerting passers-by to the fact that an interview is (or will be) in progress. Unfortunately workmen are busy installing new air conditioning nearby - and it's going to be noisy. We are invited
to decamp into the Head Honcho’s office which he has thoughtfully vacated for us.
When we were undergoing interviewing training before the project
started, we were taught lots of techniques for overcoming the nervousness of reticent interviewees and encouraging them to spill the Historical Beans. As it turned out, even the oldest of our interviewees needed no encouragement - each had a story to tell
and was super keen to tell it.
Today’s interviewee is no exception, his brain as sharp as a twenty year old’s, his powers of recall incredible.
He also, it turns out, has the edge on us - he has been involved in an oral history of the railways, carrying out no fewer than 55 interviews all over the country. Peter and I are mere novices by comparison.
Next year our latest veteran and his wife will celebrate their Platinum Wedding Anniversary - that's 70 years of marriage, believe it or not. When I asked him towards the end of our interview if life had treated him
well, he replied that the secret to happiness was in meeting and marrying the right girl.
I carried this thought home to Mr B who said he couldn't agree
more. I'm taking that as a compliment - even though I did rather shamelessly plant the thought in his head.
Peter has to rush off to rescue his car from a parking
meter while I need to do a bit of Christmas Click and Collecting (as in, I've clicked, now I must collect) so we part company outside the library and promise to email each other about meeting up for a post-project coffee.
We are excited to hear there may be another military research project in the offing.
If the call
for volunteers goes out again, you can bet your bottom dollar we’ll be there.